In 1 Timothy 4:16, the apostle Paul writes, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.” Notice that Paul stresses first the person (“Take heed to yourself) and then the message (“… and to the doctrine - i.e. the message).” He repeats that order again in 2 Timothy 2:15, first the person (“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God” ) and then the message (“Rightly dividing the word of truth”).

Thus, for Paul the order of preparation is: first, the preparation of the preacher, church leader; and second, the preparation of the message. Paul puts the preparation of the person before the preparation of the message because, as Dr. Stephen Olford puts it, “moral and spiritual rectitude is an indispensable preliminary to doctrinal orthodoxy.” (Stephen F. Olford, “Anointed Expository Preaching,” 53-54). So, before you can preach right doctrine you must first be right yourself.

To “be diligent” means to “do your utmost” – “do your utmost to present yourself to and before God as one who has been tested and found to be genuine” (2 Tim. 2:15). Paul was urging Timothy, as a young preacher and church leader, to use every effort (to be diligent, to take heed) to present himself to God like metal that has been tested and marked “approved.”

Clearly the diligence and effort demanded in this exhortation is necessary because this is not something that comes easily or naturally, nor can it be taken lightly (cf. 1 Pet. 1:7, where the same expression is used in connection with the genuineness of faith - “tested by fire”). Be diligent, just like a soldier, athlete, and farmer (2 Tim. 2:3-6), in the presentation of yourself before God “as one that is tried and true” (William D. Mounce, “Pastoral Epistles” in Word Biblical Commentary, 521).

Personal preparation begins with a daily quiet time with God. You cannot maintain moral purity and power without a daily encounter with God - a daily quiet time for the preparation of your soul (cf. Isa. 50:4-9). Your devotional life is the true barometer of spiritual health and holiness. Your devotional life must be disciplined and daily. If we are disciplined and diligent about our spiritual lives, God will approve us as those who are “tried and true,” tested and approved.

This process of “presenting ourselves before God” as those who are “tried and true” involves the daily discipline of “personal preparation” for your own spirituality in the work of the ministry. This personal preparation covers four main areas:

1.      Guarding your moral life

2.      Directing your home life

3.      Nourishing your inner life

4.      Disciplining your ministry life

In this edition, we start to look at what it means to...

a)   I. Guard Your Moral Life

The moral responsibility of a man or woman of God is clearly outlined by the apostle Paul...

1.      We must flee from sinful traps. “Flee (shun) youthful lusts (passions); but follow after (pursue) righteousness” (2 Tim. 2:22).

2.      We must follow after godly virtues. “Flee these things (i.e. liberalism [1 Tim. 6:3-5] and materialism [1 Tim. 6:6-10]) and follow after (pursue) righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11).

3.      We must fight spiritual battles. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12 ).

A GODLY LEADER MUST FLEE SINFUL TRAPS – they can destroy your ministry. Flee has the sense of “run for your life; don’t look back; escape at all costs” – like Lot’s wife was told to do to escape from Sodom. What are these sinful traps that we are to flee from?

First, we must flee from the trap of false passions (i.e. unlawful sex; sensualism; the sin of lust). 1 Cor. 6:18 states, “flee sexual immorality” and our verse in 2 Tim. 2:22 says, “flee also youthful lusts”

Sexual immorality is one of the sinful traps we must flee from. Illicit sex seems to be seducing so many men in ministry today. Now, even though Paul isn’t speaking specifically about sexual lust here, nonetheless it is certainly one of those temptations and snares that creeps in to the lives of so many men in ministry.

Someone may say: “Well, that was written to a young pastor. I can see how young pastors need to heed Paul’s advice. But I’m older. I’ve got more experience. My urges are under control. Young women aren’t chasing after me.” If that’s what you think, you’d better start fleeing the trap of false passions right now, because you’re in danger.

Despite the fact this was written to a young pastor, at no age are we free from sexual temptation. So, “keep on fleeing” and “make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:14; cf. also 1 Jn. 2:15-17, Gal. 1:4). At no time in history has sexual lust been so pervasive among pastors and church leaders. The trap of false passions is more likely to derail your ministry now than at any other time in history. Never has sexual perversion been so rampant and readily accessible than now – particularly over the internet. It’s so insidious, because it is so secret, so ubiquitous, and so addictive.

So, how do we avoid this sinful trap of false passions? We can only properly deal with temptation in the power of the Spirit, by putting “to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13), by “putting off the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22), by keeping “the flesh crucified with its passions and desires” , and by keeping in step with the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:24).

First, then we must flee from the sinful trap of false passions. Second, we must flee from the trap of false teachings (i.e. unbalanced truth; liberalism; sin of pride). The apostle Paul warns us, that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). False teachers have always existed in the church. Their approach to influencing others is usually a battle of words, the propagation of a false and misleading message - rather than sound doctrine and the true gospel. If you give up “wholesome words” (sound doctrine; the true gospel), you leave yourself open to the trap of false teaching, theological liberalism. When spiritual lethargy sets in, subversive liberalism takes over. False teachers manifest themselves in four ways:

1) False teachers preach “another gospel,” a corrupted message. That’s what (in my opinion) open theism is - “another gospel - a gospel of a different kind” (Gal. 1:6,9). That’s what the “health and wealth” message is – “another gospel,” a corrupted message. We need to beware of liberalism, which creeps in so quietly and is seemingly so innocuous. Let’s make sure that the message we preach is pure, sound, clear, accurate, wholesome.

2) False teachers display an arrogant attitude, a conceited mindset. “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing” (1 Tim. 6:3-4).

The spirit of the age we live in always wants something new. Some new doctrine. Some new practice. Some new interpretation. Whenever we encounter some “new thing” (Acts 17:21), let’s beware! There is nothing new under the sun, especially in theological matters. These new things are often rooted in pride, a conceited mindset, an egotistical attitude – “he is proud, knowing nothing.” Beware of pride of position – whether it be a doctrinal position or practice.

3) False teachers adopt an antagonistic approach, a contentious manner. They are obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth” (1 Tim. 6:4-5).

Notice that the motivation for their behaviour is a flawed moral character – envy and jealousy; strife and quarrelling; reviling and insults and malicious talk; evil suspicions; useless wrangling and arguments and constant friction. In addition, they have a flawed spiritual character - “men (or women) of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth” (5). A flawed moral character and a flawed spiritual character often go hand in hand.

4) False teachers desire material gain, a commercial motive. They are “men (or women) who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:5). Material gain (financial greed - cf. v. 10 re greediness) is the characteristic of false teachers who teach that “godliness is a means of gain.” They use the cloak of religion for personal gain (cf. Balaam; Judas). They “peddle the word of God” (2 Cor. 2:17) to make money. They treat ministry as a business. Financial greed is one of those subtle, sinful traps that grabs the heart of many men in ministry. They see the lifestyle of other people who have money and they desire it for themselves.

If you are in ministry for personal financial gain, you are not a man of God! Departure from the truth (1 Tim. 6:3-5) is often accompanied by the pursuit of materialism (1 Tim. 6:9-10), claiming that material possessions are the evidence of godliness, or that godliness is rewarded by material possessions, or that godliness is a means to material increase. This is a fraudulent message – “another gospel” that is foreign to the truth of Scripture.

The love of gain is a deadly vice which preachers must do everything to avoid. It can distort your thinking, priorities, and motives. Don’t let it be your goal or become an idol. Flee the pursuit of riches. Be content with what you have. You need to live and pay the bills, but don’t worship money. Depend on God to provide – He always does and in ways we cannot imagine.

So, flee from the trap of false passions and false teachings. And that brings us to the third trap. We must flee from the trap of false values (i.e. unbridled greed; materialism). False teaching and false values often go hand in hand, for one often leads to the other. Paul has just been speaking in 1 Tim. 6:3-5 about false teachers and now false values – namely, the desire to be rich and the love of money, which cause some men to “fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and harmful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). And then the apostle Paul says, “But you, O man of God, flee these things” (1 Tim. 6:11). So, in context, Paul is speaking about fleeing from the trap of greed, specifically, material gain, although there are other forms of greed. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and mammon (earthly riches)” (Matt. 6:24).

Greed is basic to human nature. After all, the fall that was motivated by greed, wasn’t it? – the greed for something that Adam and Eve perceived could give them something they thought they lacked. That’s what greed is – the desire for something more, because of dissatisfaction with what you now have.

The danger isn’t the possession of money itself – it’s the “love” of money. The love of money (1) prevented the rich young ruler from following Jesus – “he went away sorrowful for he had many possessions” (Mk. 10:17-22); (2) caused the rich farmer to deceive himself into thinking that all was well when he was actually on the brink of eternity (Lk. 16:16-21); and (3) motivated Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Spirit and cause great distress in the church (Acts 5:1-11).

The sinful trap of false values starts with wrong desires (“Those who desire…” [9a]), develops into wrong deeds (“…fall into temptation and a snare” [9b]), and ends in the wrong destination (“…fall into…many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” [9b]). Wealth can be a trap because it feeds the desires of the flesh; it brings power; it attracts status.

Conclusion: The most seductive and subtle traps that Satan sets for preachers and church leaders are:

1.      The Moral Trap – unlawful sex; false passions, sensuality, moral recklessness

2.      The Theological Trap – unbalanced truth; false teaching, liberalism, unorthodoxy

3.      The Material Trap – unbridled greed; false values, materialism

A godly leader must flee sinful traps - they can destroy your ministry. Second, a godly leader must follow after godly virtues – they strengthen your ministry. This second aspect of personal preparation we will look into in our next edition of the Net Pastors Journal, which will be issued in the summer 2013.

A.    M1 - Ministry First

B.     M1 is a lens in which you look at life.  

1.  M1 helps bring action to the words Ministry First

M1 is made up of  5 Key components.

F - Fellowship with God - How we are with God

I - Integrity - How we are with ourselves

R - Relationships - How we are with those close to us

S - Sharing - How we are with those outside of our circle/click

T - Thumbprint - How the world see's us. What kind of thumbprint will you leave on the world.

C.    How to apply M1 to your life

D.    M1 is built on the principal of First things First.

As you go through the F.I.R.S.T. Process you will see that you need to work things in order. I cant really happen until you have F in place, and S wont work unless you can get F. I. R. Working correctly 

 

 

E.     F - Fellowship with God- How we are with God

This is the foundation on which everything is based on. If our relationship with God is not right or completely lacking then nothing we do will work or truly glorify Him in our actions or thoughts

Galatians 3:26 - For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.

Ephesians 1:7 - In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 1:8 that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight.

John 8:31 Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him "If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be really free.

Applications  Dig a little deeper

F - Faith - Have faith in Jesus

I - Intimacy - Have an intimate and personal relationship with him

R - Reverence - Hold God in reverence

S - Strength - Lean on his strength and not your own

T - Trust - Place your trust in the Lord.

 

A.    I - Integrity - How we are with ourselves

While our fellowhip with God is growing we need to dig deep into ourselves and ask ourselves are we who really want to be? We need to work on how we are with ourselves. Integrity is often explained as doing the right thing when no one is looking 

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 5:2 through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God's glory. 5:3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings knowing that sufferingproduces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5:5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God had been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Application  Dig a little deeper

F - Follow - Find a mentor or small group

I - Instructions - God gave us instructions to follow

R - Read - Read God's word daily

S - Sound/Solid - Grow your faith to be solid and sound

T - Tenacity - Have the tenacity to stand firm and run the race

Action Items

Prayer

Study the Bible

Actively go to church

Interact with a small group or an accountability partner 

Following F.

Back to the top

B.      R - Relationships - How we are with those close to us

Once we have our Fellowship, and our Integrity is in place, we need to focus on the people around us. How do we interact with our spouse, girldfriend/boyfriend, brother/sister, Mom/Dad or other family members? Jesus said to love our enemies, but sometimes it's harder to love those close to us.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 5:23 because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church - he himself being the savior of the body.

5:25 Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 5:26 to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, 5:27 so that he may present the church to himself as glorious - not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. 

6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right 6:2 "Honor your father and mother", which is the first commandment accompanied by a promise, namely, 6:3 " that it may go well with you and that you will love a long time on the earth"
6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
 

Application  Dig a little deeper

F - Family - Work with your family to get closer to God

I - Interpersonal - Develope interpersonal relationships within your family

R - Resemblance - Resemble Jesus when you interact with your family

S - Similarity - Find similar interest when interacting with your family

T - Tender - Most of all be tender.
 

Action Items

Prayer

Go to church as a family

Family devotions

Be involved in your family's lives

Follow F. I.

C.    S - Sharing - How we are with those outside our family/clique

Once we know how to interact with those close to us then we can start on those who are not. Preparing for a missions trip to Kenya? Want to know if it is going to be sucessful?successful? Well then, how are you at being kind to the bratty kids next door?, or the clerk at the store? Or the one who cut you off in traffic?

Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 28:20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of age.

Luke 6:32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

John13:34 " I give you a new commandment - to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another"
 

Application  Dig a little deeper

F - Friends - Start with your friends then move on to the rest of the world

I - Illuminate - Glow with your love. Shine

R - Relate - Relate to where people are. Be real

S - Social - Step out of your comfort zone

T - Testimony - You have a testimony, use it. People can tell when you're real.
 

Action Items

Prayer

Be open to meeting new people

Be open to God using his voice through you

Be involved in other's lives

Follow F.I.R.

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D.    T - Thumbprint - How the world sees us

There is a saying that has been going around Christian cirles for years. If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? If you looked back over your life can you see a clear thumbprint of your ministry?

Romans 14:8 If we live, we live for the Lord; if we die we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.

 

Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:7 for we live by faith, not by sight.

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by things of the flesh, those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.

Application  Dig a little deeper

F - Freedom - When you follow God's plan for your life, you will experience freedom

I - Inheritance - You are an heir of God

R - Results - When you follow God's plan you can look back and see the results

S - Substance - Following God's will, you will build up many things in your life

T - Traditions - Set a tradition for those who follow you

 

Action Items

Prayer

Daily Devotions

Mentor a new Christian

Follow F.I.R.S.